Being Bison Wise
Bison are wild animals. Even though they look docile they are dangerous, unpredictable, and may charge without warning. Approaching bison is unlawful and puts yourself and others at risk. Please view bison safely and follow these simple tips:
- Stay in your vehicle and do not approach bison on foot along the roadside.
- Keep at least 100 metres (330 feet) away from Bison at all times, even when you are in your vehicle.
- Avoid approaching bison where their escape routes are limited; they may charge more readily.
- If you encounter bison while hiking, don’t try to approach or scare them away. Make them aware of your presence, if they don’t move off- walk well around them, always keeping an eye on them. If necessary, return to the trailhead.
- Never enter a herd of bison on foot or come between two animals, especially a cow and her calf.
- During the mating season (rut) bulls are more aggressive and may pose increased danger.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times as they can agitate bison and provoke attacks.
Bison Warning Signs
Bison are very unpredictable animals and every encounter is unique; there is no single strategy that will work in every situation. Be alert and aware of the following warning signs:
- Snorting and tossing its head
- Raising of the tail
- Turning its back to you, raising its tail and defecating
- Pawing the ground
- False charge may occur, do not run
- Leaves and twigs on the head can indicate that the bison is aggressive
It’s all about the tail:
Animals have many warning signs: Dogs growl, cats hiss, and horses lay their ears back. For bison, the warning is in the tail. When a bison feels threatened, its tail can tell you just how threatened the animal feels. When encountering a bison, keep an eye on its back-end, it can help you indicate the likely-hood of an attack.
© Parks Canada / W. Olsen